I was asked by someone why I discussed the American Nationals at Balmoral this past weekend instead of the Cane Pace Elimination at Freehold. Well, the Cane Pace Elimination answered the question for me. It also explains why I don't discuss elimination races.
In the $100,000 Cane Pace Elimination, eight horses were entered to compete for the five remaining slots in the $300,000 Cane Pace being contested on Labor Day, September 6. You would think with a purse of $100,000, there would be enough incentive to win the race, wouldn't you?
Well, other than a slight attempt at the beginning for Malicious to leave fastest of all, it was 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 around the track for the first half of the race, no one wanting to make a move; to be more precise, no one wanting to make a move which may jeopardize their qualifying for the race final. The only real movement in the race after the first eighth of a mile was Malicious dropping back through the field. Yes, Woodstock did make a half-hearted attempt to take on I'm Gorgeous in the stretch, after he was unchallenged through the first three quarters of the mile, but the real race within the race was between Urgent Action and Foreign Officer who were fighting for fifth and a berth into the final.
The takeaway from the race? Other than I'm Gorgeous equaling the track record, not much else. With $300,000 on the line next week, no one is going to be able to get away unchallenged. Rest assured the race next week will be contested far differently than the elimination.
This is why I don't discuss eliminations. I can't discuss every race so I rather concentrate on races where there is no looking ahead to next week. While I understand the problems inherent in eliminations, what about those customers who are wagering on these elimination races thinking everyone is going to go all out to win the race? Experienced gamblers know horses in an elimination race may not give their full effort and that is fine and dandy. But the newbies, people we want to keep coming to the races, may not realize this. Remember in your track program what they used to say about qualifying races, how they weren't competitive, but are used to show a horse can meet the qualifying standards? There should be a warning listed about elimination races, "While elimination races are competitive, you should realize the main objective of horses in this race is to advance to the final so they may have not given their full effort in the race".
Elimination races are bad for racing. If we insist on relying on eliminations to determine fields for a final, it would be in the long term interest of harness racing to contest them as non-wagering events. In the meanwhile, count on me not to cover them.